Live and let YouTube

01 Sep 2008

There seems to be an attitude shift in the digital copyright wars, at least on that scourge of the Information Highway known as YouTube, which now has stats to show that it's better to let users post than to shut them down.

For the last couple of years, the Google-owned video-sharing site has been under pressure from major media companies to keep users from uploading music videos, film clips, mash-ups and anything else using copyrighted material. Even cute home videos of babies dancing to 30 seconds worth of a Prince song weren't spared the wrath of copyright lawyers out to enforce the music industry's zero-tolerance policy.

YouTube has resisted demands to actively police users, pointing to its takedown notice policy (which puts responsibility on the copyright owner to discover violators and demand a takedown) as the fairest way to deal with the issue. But it also agreed to develop tools to make it easier for copyright owners to hunt down infringers.

In October 2007, YouTube introduced its Video ID tool, which helps copyright owners find content with video-matching technology that matches video content against a database of content "fingerprints" generated by the content owner. (Similar tools are in place for spotting music tracks used in a video.)

But Google's real innovation was a tool feature giving copyright owners three options for further action: block the content, track it, or monetize it by place advertising on the user's Web page. Users are sent an email notifying them that their video has been flagged, and which action the content owner will take.

Video ID is still in beta, but it's been live for some time, and last month, media reports began to surface on how copyright owners have been using Video ID so far. And the results are encouraging.

According to a post last week on the official Google blog, of all copyright claims made under Video ID, copyright owners have opted for the advertising option a whopping 90% of the time, with the other 10% opting either to block or track content.

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